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Transcript of interview with Neil Mitchell: Radio 3AW: 9 August 2018: foreign fighters lose Australian citizenship; Andrews Government action against Sky News; Melbourne African crime gangs



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THE HON PETER DUTTON MP MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION

TRANSCRIPT

INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL RADIO 3AW

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9 August 2018

Subjects: Foreign fighters lose Australian citizenship; Andrews Government action against Sky News; Melbourne African crime gangs.

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

NEIL MITCHELL:

Now, I think this is good news about a bad situation. Five Islamic State terrorists have been stripped of their Australian citizenship to stop them coming back, to stop them coming back to Australia, three men and two women. Clearly the fear is if they've been fighting with Islamic State, they come back to Australia then they're a danger to Australia. So they lose their citizenship. It is not easy to lose your citizenship. There's been a top secret process behind this.

On the line, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, good morning.

PETER DUTTON:

Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Where were they from in Australia?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, predominantly people coming out of Melbourne and Sydney. But all over Australia we have foreign fighters that have left, Australian citizens who have left our shores to go and fight for Islamic State, to fight in Syria, in Iraq and many of them have been killed in action over there which frankly is a good thing because it means they're not coming back. And

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we're very pleased with the fact another five have lost their citizenship because they too will not be returning back to Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you able to name them?

PETER DUTTON:

No I can't. There's speculation in the media this morning about some of the names, I don't want to add to that. But as we've said, there are dozens of people that have gone across to the Middle East and some of them have been killed and some are still involved in action.

It takes some time to go through this process because we need to gather the intelligence and the information and it's hard to do when people are in a war zone and we work with our Five Eyes partners, with our intelligence partners and look at individual cases…

NEIL MITCHELL:

…so what happens with these people now, the five of them now, what happens? Do they just have to stay in the countries they're in?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, they're not rendered stateless. So under our legislation they need to be dual nationals. So we're not rendering people stateless. They will be citizens of other countries….

NEIL MITCHELL:

….and which countries are these five citizens of?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Neil, I won't say that. Again, some of these matters, some of these individuals may still be the focus of attention from the intelligence agencies or the law enforcement community. So I don't want to go into the individual cases, but they all come from a variety of countries.

And they've had their - through their own actions, they've effectively renounced their Australian citizenship and they can then default back to their country of birth or the country that they had citizenship of otherwise.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Now, three men and two women, correct?

PETER DUTTON:

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Well, as I say Neil, I don't want to go into the identities of the individuals. There's some speculation around it. I don't want to add to that but…

NEIL MITCHELL:

….okay, well would it be fair to say these people have got family networks in Australia?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, some of them will and some of them will already be subject to investigations, to focus and some of them may have been interviewed. It depends on the individual cases, but certainly that's the reality if what we're dealing with.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is it correct there's only been one other person to be stripped of citizenship in this?

PETER DUTTON:

That's correct, that's correct mate. So there's six people in total and that's the number we're at at the moment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

How do you reach that decision? I mean, who does the work? Is it the intelligence agencies? How's it done?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, there's a Citizenship Loss Board. So it's headed by my Department, Home Affairs, but involves other agencies, including the intelligence heads and they go through, have a look at the individual cases.

And the way in which the legislation is structured effectively means that by their own actions these people are effectively renouncing their Australian citizenship on the precondition that they're a dual citizen and that they won't be rendered stateless.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So what happens if they turn up at an Australian airport?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, they're offshore so if they turn up to an airport to come back to Australia they would be denied entry onto the plane. So we don't have visa on arrival, as you'd be aware, for any

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country other than New Zealand. So if somebody's turning up in Kuala Lumpur or somewhere else to hop onto a plane they'll need a visa before they hop on and they would be denied entry.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will there be more to come?

PETER DUTTON:

I would expect that there would be more to come. We've still got people involved in these sort of terrorist activities. It's an issue for us here domestically.

But my judgement is that we want to keep these people as far away from Australia as possible and if we can effectively stop them coming back - as you pointed out in your intro - people have been over there, they've been trained in the art of bomb making, they've been skilled up in terms of being involved with terrorist organisations. So we just don't want them back here.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is there any concern about their connections in Australia wanting retribution?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, in some cases, as I say, there will be networks, whether it's family or community networks otherwise, but we'll work through all of that.

Obviously the agencies have been able to thwart 14 attempted attacks now, but they're investigating matters every day and this issue is going to be with us for a long period of time.

But we introduced this legislation because the reality is it is a significant threat. And people give up their allegiance if they are involved in fighting for terrorist organisations. It’s not consistent with the values that they signed up when they become an Australian citizen.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Just if I may, on a couple of other things, you catch up with the Sky News row about Blair Cottrell appearing on a program there?

PETER DUTTON:

I've seen the reporting of it, I didn't see the actual interview of it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

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No neither did I. What was your view of it? Because the Transport Minister here, Jacinta Allan, has just banned Sky News from railway stations.

PETER DUTTON:

Well look, I think people can make political hay out of this, which is exactly what they would be doing. Sky News made a mistake. They've stuck their hand up. That you would ban the whole network is an absurdity and frankly, as I say, it's just a political statement. I would have thought in Victoria at the moment there are higher order priorities than the music that's been piped at train stations across Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And the other thing - I don't agree with you or some of the other comments that Melbournians are frightened to go to restaurants because of African gangs - but we did have more African gang trouble here last night with people being told to be locked in their houses. Police said: lock yourselves in your house it's not safe to come out.

PETER DUTTON:

Well Neil, again, I think Premier Andrews is running this social experiment in Victoria at the moment. It's not in the best interests of Victorians.

We need to accept that there's a problem. There's a problem with African gang violence in Victoria. No one wants to see it. It's a great state and Melbourne's a great city, but people are concerned. They are worried about this activity and if they're being told to lock themselves in their room at night, or in their house at night, or they're, you know, they're scared otherwise because of these activities then there's a basic fundamental failing of the Premier.

And frankly I think Premier Andrews needs to consider his own position because this is just escalating. It's not an issue that the Victorian Government has under control and the fact that they can't even admit that they've got a problem, how on Earth could you hope to solve it?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

[Ends]